Month 6 Day 31
When Abdulla exited the lift and entered the bridge, she was surprised by Mac’s huge, enthusiastic smile. I don’t think I’ve seen Mac’s full smile since her first month aboard. It’s very good to see it again.
“Good morning, Abs!” Mac greeted warmly as she approached communications.
Abdulla gave her a mock frown as she began the shift-change check of the equipment. “I don’t suppose it’ll do me any good to tell you for the thousandth time that I don’t like being called that.”
Mac shrugged her left shoulder, then her face took on a mock stern look, and her voice moved half a tone higher in pitch. “I know! You just can’t get through to that Mac! She never listens! Why, I’ve heard it said that Bugs doesn’t like being called Bugsy, either. But he’s given up trying to change that wretched, inconsiderate habit of hers.” Mac’s broad smile flashed again and her voice returned to normal. “Maybe you should get used to it.”
Abdulla shook her head and changed the subject. “I heard a rumor that you passed probation. Congratulations. You must have had better luck without me being there. Did I… unconsciously add to your stress level?”
Mac considered the question, but didn’t answer directly. “Have you seen Bugs this morning?”
That change of subject might mean I hit a nerve of some sort. “Should be on the next lift, I imagine. You know how crowded they get at shift change.”
“That’s why I usually take a back route.”
She knows a route to get here using Jeffrey tubes and maintenance passages? I suppose it can be done, I just never bothered to think about it. “Lt. MacDowell, you are relieved.”
“Thanks. Just in time,” Mac said and surged out of her seat to throw her arms around Bugalu as he walked by. “I passed, Bugs!” she said quietly but with joyful enthusiasm.
“Let me breathe!” he requested hoarsely.
Mac immediately loosened her hug, which let him suck air into his lungs. “Sorry. I forgot, in my excitement.”
“I don’t think you broke any ribs.” He smiled and slipped his arms around her shoulders. “But you didn’t need to tell me that; I was there. Still, I’m surprised by your joyfulness this morning. That wasn’t your reaction at the time. I distinctly remember your utter lack of appreciation for the reason for the movie being interrupted.”
Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “That was nonsense! That wasn’t a proper test!” Her smile returned. “I took the test on duty last night, and I passed! Smit even said my answers ‘caught his attention’.”
Abdulla stared at the friends in surprise. On duty? Smythe would have been asleep! Should have been, anyway. Abdulla saw the lift door open yet again, and Mr Smythe stopped short to give the 2 friends a frowning glare. The captain, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to them and walked over to sit in her command chair. And that isn’t the reaction I would expect from the captain upon seeing a couple embracing on the bridge, either. What is going on?
“I knew you could do it,” Bugalu told his friend.
Smythe finally walked forward, uttered, “Not here and not now, lieutenants,” as he walked past them. Mac reluctantly released the daytime helmsman.
“After my shift?” Bugalu whispered. He had only partially released her; he still held her hands.
“Sure,” Mac agreed. “I might be sleeping. Or if I’m not home, check the library. Kolla wants lunch, and we might get carried away exploring some idea or another.”
“Sit down, Mr Evans, you haven’t been relieved,” the captain instructed sharply.
“But Captain-“ The captain must have given Evans one of her looks, because he didn’t pursue his protest. Instead, he returned to his seat at the helm.
“Gotta go.” Bugalu let go of Mac. “I’ll find you.” He headed for the helm, where Evans waited impatiently. Mac turned to leave.
“Captain, here’s my morning report,” Smythe stated.
“Thank you, Mr Smythe, for being so prompt.” Capt Burke’s response was louder than she usually spoke, and she immediately added, “Congratulations, Lt MacDowell.” Mac stopped moving forward and turned around, her green eyes round with surprise. The captain twisted in her chair to smile at the redhead. “I don’t remember if I said it last night, so welcome to the crew of the Fireball.”
Mac seemed uncertain how to react. “Th- Thank you, captain.” The captain turned away, and Mac’s full smile emerged once again. Her hands formed a few movements in Abdulla’s direction before she whirled and bolted through the closing lift doors.
Abdulla’s mind sorted and eventually translated those hand movements. She chuckled, then slapped a hand over her mouth to keep the chuckle inside. She glanced at Smythe, who stood near the engineering console, his gaze on the closed lift. He walked over to communications. “What were those hand signals, lieutenant?”
“It’s an ancient Amerind sign language, sir. Yellow Dog uses it quite a bit, and I’ve seen Tall Bear use it, too, now that there’s somebody else aboard who knows it. Mac knows it better than I do, but I’m fairly certain she told me I’m stuck with her now.”
“Stuck,” he muttered. “Yes, I guess we all are.” Smythe took a step away, told her over his shoulder, “I’ll be in engineering.”
Abdulla stared as he left the bridge. He usually says that to the captain, not me. And Evans was rebuked for attempting to hurry Bugalu’s taking the helm? What a morning this has turned out to be. And no wonder Mac was so full of joy this morning. ‘Maybe you should get used to it,’ she remembered the redhead saying to her. Abdulla’s smile faltered. Well, maybe I should. That’s how she treats all her friends. It’s only people she doesn’t like who she calls by their full name. But no one else gets to call me that!